Fulachta Fiadh

The Following Article is taken from a project by Kate Landers.

An Archaeological Survey of South Kerry.

The site of one Fulachta Fiadh can be found here in Gleninchaquin. We hope you find this article of interest. PW 2015.

Fulachta Fiadh is the Irish term used to describe a type of archaeological site which is usually interpreted as an ancient cooking place. These sites frequently survive as sod-covered mounds which are largely composed of heat-cracked stones and charcoal enriched soil. The mounds often feature a depression which, on excavation, is found to contain the remains of a hearth and a trough. Debris from stones, heated and shattered during the process of boiling water in the trough, was discarded nearby, gradually accumulating to form the mound.

Fulachta Fiadh occur in circular or oval form, or can be found in a crescent or horseshoe shaped plan – these result from one side of the site being left open for the purpose of access to the hearth and trough. The mounds are composed of heat-cracked stone, ash and charcoal intermixed with earth. Hearths, usually not identifiable without excavation, are frequently stone built. Probable fuels used would include oak, hawthorn, willow and poplar. A sunken trough, which may be lined with stone slabs, wood or clay is sometimes found adjoining the hearth.

Fulachta Fiadh have also been found in Britain, Germany and Scandinavia. Over 4,500 examples have been recorded in Ireland to date, the majority of them occuring in Munster. Most of the Fulachta Fiadh are found below 300 ft, (91m) and tend to be located in marshy areas or in bogs, where the sites had an unlimited supply of water, sometimes Fulacta Fiadh may be found along the banks of streams.

Several functions have been ascribed to these sites – such as bathing places, saunas, or leather processing sites. The archaeological evidence appears to indicate that a Fulachta Fiadh functioned primarily as cooking places (O’Drisceoil 1988) – this has often been tested by experiment. In one such experiment over 450 litres of water in a trough was bought to boiling point in 30 minutesby placing heated stones in it and only a few additional stones were needed to keep it boiling during the the cooking process. A 4.5kg leg of mutton was cooked in 3hrs 40m. The stones, which shattered during the process were cleared from the trough before it was used again.

References to fulachta often occur in Medieval and Modern Irish literature, and although the term has come to be equated with fulachta fiadh – which appears to be a 19th century term – the connection has not been firmly established (O’Drisceoil 1990). In the literature, fulachta fiadh are frequently connected with the mythical Fianna, and the term is taken to mean cooking place of the wild or the deer, or cooking place of the Fianna. This connection with the Fianna and with Fionn Mac Cumhaill has contributed to the common interpretation of fulachta fiadh as cooking places used by roving groups of hunters. To date, radiocarbon determinations place these monuments in the Bronze Age, though artefactual evidence indicates they were also used in the early Medieval Period.